Mucho Added New Dimension With Close Second In Oaklawn’s Fifth Season

Mucho is again training at his home base, The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, Ky., but trainer John Ortiz said the horse is under consideration for a return trip to Oaklawn for stakes action later this month or in March.

The speedy Mucho was already an allowance winner sprinting at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting before finishing second, beaten a neck by Rated R Superstar, in the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes for older horses Jan. 15. The one-mile Fifth Season marked the two-turn debut for Mucho, a 6-year-old son of Blame who races for former Walmart executive William Simon (WSS Racing) and Brent and Sharilyn Gasaway of Little Rock, Ark. (4 G Racing).

Mucho shot to the front in the Fifth Season and turned back challenges from Thomas Shelby and Concert Tour before finally being overtaken on the outside in the shadow of the wire by millionaire Rated R Superstar.

“This was our test,” Ortiz said. “It was exactly what we wanted to see. We wanted to see if he could do the two turns. Now, I think we’ve got a good sprinter and you have a good two-turn horse. Honestly, we get to play a game with him and see where he takes us.”

It could be back to Oaklawn, Ortiz said, for the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 12 or the $200,000 Whitmore (G3) at six furlongs March 19. Both races are for older horses.

Mucho returned to the work tab Tuesday at The Thoroughbred Center, covering a half-mile in :50. Ortiz’s stable is split between Oaklawn and The Thoroughbred Center training facility.

“He comes here, runs and then goes back,” Ortiz said. “It’s just a little bit quieter up there for him. We’re not planning on running him very often. We just want to make sure we pick and choose our spots this year. We’ve got bigger goals. We’ve got to get to the Breeders’ Cup with him.”

Ortiz noted Mucho finished just two lengths behind 2021 Oaklawn debut winner Aloha West in the $250,000 Phoenix Stakes (G2) Oct. 8 at Keeneland, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event. After finishing second in the Phoenix, Aloha West returned to win the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) Nov. 6 at Del Mar.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup is at Keeneland, which is about 12 miles from The Thoroughbred Center. Also on the table is the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), Ortiz said.

“Two turns, short stretch, just like here,” Ortiz said. “That’s probably going to be a good target. Breeders’ Cup Day is where we want to be with him. We were very close last year. We finished third behind Aloha West and we opted out of going to the Breeders’ Cup because of the logistics. But this year, we’re going to be running from our backyard, from our stall, and I think home-track advantage here. I think we’ll be very competitive. But that’s the goal. Not just with him, but with many horses from our barn.”

On behalf of WSS and 4 G, Ortiz claimed Mucho for $80,000 in November 2020 at Churchill Downs. Mucho was an allowance winner at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting for his new connections and captured the $100,000 Challedon Stakes July 31 at Pimlico. Mucho has a 7-8-3 record from 30 lifetime starts and earnings of $716,729.

The Razorback closed with 38 nominations. Post positions will be drawn Monday. It is a major local prep for the $1 million Oaklawn Handicap (G2) at 1 1/8 miles April 23. The newly graded Whitmore (formerly the Hot Springs Stakes) is a major local steppingstone to the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) at 6 furlongs April 16.

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